< boys hair styles: cropped hair

Boys' Hair Styles: Cropped Hair

Figure 1.--Sailor suits were one of the most popular styles for German boys. Note the older boy in the short pants sailor suit whose hair has been shaved in a photograph taken before the First World War.

We notice large numbers of boys in Germany and other European countries dyring the laste 19th and early 20 centuries with close cropped hair cuts. This style was much less common in America and England. We do not know a great deal about this style. It appears more common with working-class than middle-class families. Apparentyly it was no only a hair fashion, but also a matter of hygene. Masny school photoigraphs in particulsar show boys with these cropped hair styles. They became much less common after World War I (1914-18). There does not appear to be a lot of styling with these cuts, just close cropped all over,

Shaved Heads

Even more severe than the crew cut or cropped hear was shaving a boy's head. When we began the hair sectioin of HBC, we assumed that the images from Germany anf other countries were boys with shaved heads. We have since realized that the idea of actually shaving boys' heads was not really feasible. What these photograpgs showed were boys with cropped not shaved heads. Somee of the photographs, however, show boys with severely cropped hair, cut as short as possible withhout actually shaving.


HBC does not have good chronological information at this time about shaved head styles. It is clearly a 19th century style. Soldiers in the 18th century wore elaborate whigs, this was the common fashion throughout Europe. This did not change until the French Revolution about the turn of the 19th century. HBC is not sure about the chronology. It appears to be a style adopted in Prussia, first by soldiers and then adopted by school boys. Just when this occurred, but it appears to have been well established by the time Prussia forged the German Empire in 1870-71. We wonder if there may have been technological factors involved here. We are not sure when low-cost clippers first became available. It was a hair style worn by some boys in the late 19th century, but few details are available. By the early 20th century, school boys in Germany, Japan, Russian and other countries often had their hair shaved. A good example is a Austrian/German boy in 1911. This style seems to have rapidly fallen out of style after the War. We see relatively few boys with cropped hair by the 1930s, although this varied from country to country. The styule appears to have persisted longer in Eastern Europe. And in Japan cropped hair persisted even after World War II. After World War II this style continued for some secondary schools boys into the 1960s.

Country Differences

The shaved hair style appears to have been adopted first in Prussia. It was a raical departure from the elaborate whihs that even soldiers wore in the 18th century. The Prussian influence brought shave heads to other areas of the German Empire after it was formed in 1870-71. Prussian incluence helped popularize the shave head styles in several other countries, mostly notably Russia and Japan. HBC believes that the close cropped hair in some countries was a style required by schools--but has few details at this time. Japanese boys until recently also wore shaved cuts.

Religious Connotations

Shaved heads also had religious connotations. The best known example here is the shaved heads of buddist months. Boys training to be monks have their heads shaved as a symbol of their full devotion to Lord Buddha. There is a shaving ceremony in front of friends and family members. The boy once shaved takes his vows administered by the head abbot and puts away from himself his hair and nails and becomes devoted to Buddha. The new boy monk is then dressed for life in yellow monk robes which he will wear for the rest of his life.


HBC has no information at this time about what boys thought about their shaved hair cuts. We do not know if they like the style because it was a military look or if it was a style that was fiorce on them by ther schools.

The Cut

A close cropped cut would have to be done with clipperrs. It could not be done just with sissors. I think that these cuts wouldd have been done at home rather than by a barber. As all the hair clipped to a very short level, no real barbering skills are needed. This would also be important for working-class children as no barber fees were required. Sone of these cuts may have been done at school, but I do not yet have coinfirmation on this.



Prior to buzz cuts becoming a popular style, one HBC contributor reports that, it was used as a form as punishment by parents when the boy misbehaved. It was humiliating for the boy to have his head shaved.

Health measures

Head shaving was also used in schools particularly when an outbreak of hair lice occurred (which was more prevalent then, but still occurs today). Back then, they didn't have the "miracle" over the counter medications we have today, and both boys and girls would be shaved if an infestation broke out.

Black boys

Before the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, African American boys wore mostly "conservative" buzz cuts in better hopes of "fitting in" at white schools.


I am not certain when the electric clippers were invented (this would help pin point it, since before that, a straight edge razor would have been used for shaved heads. One can only assume that after the introduction of the electric shears that the hair styles became more popular as they were much easier to cut.


Some movies have been made with boys that had shaved heads. I'm not sure about the historical accuracy.

Hans Christian Anderson

The Danny Kaye movie in 1952 was a big budget Hollywood production detailing the life of the famed Danish story teller. I'm not sure about the accuracy of the costuming nor do I recall at this time the context of the boy with the shaved head.


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Created: June 12, 2000
Last updated: 1:11 AM 3/25/2007